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Technology, infrastructure, governance and anticorruption, human development, subjective wellbeing/happiness
Charles Kenny is a senior fellow and the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development. His current work focuses on gender and development, the role of technology in development, governance and anticorruption and the post-2015 development agenda. He has published articles, chapters and books on issues including what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health, the link between economic growth and happiness, the end of the Malthusian trap, the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of the book "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding, and How We Can Improve the World Even More" and “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.” He has been a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a regular contributor to Business Week magazine. Kenny was previously at the World Bank, where his assignments included working with the VP for the Middle East and North Africa Region, coordinating work on governance and anticorruption in infrastructure and natural resources, and managing a number of investment and technical assistance projects covering telecommunications and the Internet.
In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Peter Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council, suggested “it does the American economy no long-term good to only keep the big box factories where we are now assembling ‘American’ products that are composed primarily of foreign components.” Instead, he argued, "we need to manufacture those components in a robust domestic supply chain that will spur job and wage growth.” This policy proposal joins the administration’s executive orders to reduce migration as twin planks of an effort to create good jobs for Americans.
Sadly, the combined impact would have the opposite effect—as well as having grim consequences for the developing world. Americans have three choices regarding the low-paying, often hazardous jobs most don’t want: keep foreign labor here, continue to import the needed products, or use robots. To pretend otherwise is doing everyone a disservice.
Want to make products at home? It will cost you, America
To begin with supply chains, it is true that they increasingly cross borders—as much as 60 percent of US imports in some industries are components and inputs. But still, considerable barriers to trade are the reason to believe that trying to produce the same goods at home would create only a few, low paying jobs at a cost to the American consumer. James Anderson and Eric van Wincoop estimate that transport and border related trade barriers including translation expenses and currency exchange add 21 percent and 55 percent respectively to the cost of goods. (Policy barriers like tariffs account for only 8 out of the 55 percent.) Producers of goods outside the United States involved in supply chains to America have to be able to suck up the combined 86 percent markup in order to make their exports compete with producers in the US.
Foreign firms’ ability to profit even after this border markup tells us something about the kind of jobs often associated with component production and so the kind of component manufacturing jobs we’d hope to ‘bring back’ if we kept supply chains at home. Many supplier firms remain competitive in large part because they don’t pay workers nearly as much as they are paid in the US. In 2009, Indian manufacturing workers averaged $1.20 an hour in compensation—a little more than one thirtieth US manufacturing pay that year. In Taiwan, manufacturing workers were earning a little less than a quarter of the US level. In China, they were earning about five percent the amount of their US counterparts—and less than one quarter the US minimum wage. American workers wouldn’t want (and legally couldn’t be offered) jobs that pay so little.
If America was to start trying to make rather than import the components currently being made abroad using the same technologies and workers paid American wages, those components would cost far more. That would drive up the cost of the finished product. And that would be bad for the US company making the product: they’d face tougher competition from finished imports from other places and lose any hope they had of exporting products themselves. Over 27 percent of basic metals and fabricated metal products imported to the US is re-exported in US exports, for example. Raise the cost of those intermediate products by trying to produce them at home using native labor, and you reduce America’s exports.
Keeping up with the technology
If more pay with the same technology doesn’t work as an option, there is another way to bring component manufacturing to a place with native wages 20 times as high as China today: use a different technology. And there is already a strong trend towards automation of jobs in industry. All the evidence suggests that Chinese competition was one factor speeding the decline of US manufacturing over the past 15 years, for example, but all the evidence also suggests that increased manufacturing productivity—new technologies—played a considerably bigger role. This is a global phenomenon: despite the low wages, manufacturing jobs are disappearing everywhere, losing out to machines. Manufacturing employment peaked in Brazil in the 1980s and China in the mid-1990s. Trying to increase intermediate product manufacturing in the US with native workers would only speed the trend. The jobs localized supply chains did create in the US would overwhelmingly go to robots, not people.
Foreign workers: taking jobs that Americans won’t
Our colleague Michael Clemens has looked at agriculture and found that, in that sector, trying to replace foreign labor with American labor doesn’t work even if the jobs are already in the US. One case is the seasonal farm worker program in North Carolina. In 2012, 7,000 foreign farm workers in the State labored in positions American workers wouldn’t take. Despite first preference rights to the positions, high local unemployment, competitive wages, and a lot of advertising, only seven Americans finished out the season working on these farm jobs. If it hadn’t been for the migrants, the work simply wouldn’t have gotten done. A second case Michael studies is the Bracero guest worker program, which ran from 1942 to 1964, bringing in millions of Mexican workers to work on American farms. When the program ended, there was no evidence of a jump in wages or employment for US farmworkers. Instead, Michael found evidence that the end of the Bracero program increased farm automation—once again, robots took the jobs that Americans wouldn’t take.
To be sure, China, Mexico, and elsewhere have gained considerably from the movement of goods and people to the US. For all jobs paying a tenth or a twentieth of the average US manufacturing wage aren’t attractive to Americans, for people in a country like China that saw 41 percent of its population living on less than $1.90 a day as recently as 1999, they were a godsend. Again, and despite low wages by US standards, low-skilled migrant workers earn multiples of what they would at home and send billions in remittances back to families desperately poor by any US standard. It would be a considerable setback to global development progress if the US tried to reduce the movement of goods and people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Loss of global engagement is a loss for the US
But it would also be a setback to the United States. Because both supply chains and migration allow for more efficient production and increased competitiveness, there is no simple trade-off between jobs at home and jobs abroad. On average, a US firm that adds 10 percent more jobs to their foreign affiliates adds four percent more jobs at home. The same applies to migrant labor doing jobs here that Americans won’t do: in 2012, the 7,000 foreign farm workers in North Carolina contributed more than $248 million to the state’s economy, creating over 1,400 jobs for Americans.
There is a significant challenge to improve quality job prospects in this country. Americans want stable employment that pays considerably more than $7.50 an hour, and they should have it. Greater global engagement could and should help create the resources for the education and training, the tax credits, and the strengthened provision of services from child care through infrastructure that will generate more of those jobs. But cutting off from global engagement will simply leave everyone worse off. You simply can’t fashion good jobs for American natives out of good jobs for people from the developing world, because what counts as a good job is so radically different between the two groups.
The Trump administration has imposed a number of entry restrictions through executive order, justifying them on national security grounds. Their national security impact is hotly debated and the orders also raise considerable moral issues. But one additional set of concerns regards the economic costs of tightening visa restrictions, which can be considerable even when looking solely at temporary visitors. While the current bans would likely have a limited economic impact on the US through reduced tourist and business travel, the extension of restrictions could carry increasingly heavy economic costs.
The current executive orders call for barring Syrian refugees indefinitely and restricting overall refugee flows to 50,000—a move discussed by Cindy Huang and Hannah Postel in a recent blog post. The order also temporarily suspended all entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The refugee and entry bans are undergoing review by the courts and are currently blocked. For the future, the administration is mulling broader visa requirements making it harder for a wider range of people to enter the United States including a “uniform screening standard and procedure” for everyone coming to the country.
The impact of visa requirements on travel and the economy
Tighter restrictions on permanent residence halt a positive force for economic growth and native-born wages in the US. But even bans or other limits on tourist and business visas carry a heavy cost, because many people are deterred from travelling to a country by the hassle and expense of obtaining a visa, while others can’t travel because their visa applications are rejected (already 20 percent of applicants in the case of Mexico, 54 percent in the case of Senegal, for example).
Robert Lawson of Southern Methodist University and Saurav Roychoudhury of Capital University suggest that demanding a visa in advance from citizens of a country is associated with a 70 percent lower level of tourist entries than from a similar country where there is no requirement to get a visa. Simone Bertoli and Jesús Fernández-Huertas Moraga argue the introduction of a visa requirement reduces total direct bilateral flows between 40 and 47 percent, while increasing the flows toward other destinations between 3 and 17 percent—implying that tougher visa restrictions would reduce American tourism receipts to the benefit of other countries. It wouldn’t be a surprise if making the visa process tougher increased its deterrent effect—and the evidence on introducing the in-person interview requirement for US visa applicants suggests exactly that, according to Department of Homeland Security research.
Lower flows of people have knock-on effects: Natalia Kapelko and Natalya Volchkova of the Center for Economic and Financial Research document that not only do the value of exports fall with visa restrictions, so too does the probability of US firms entering visa restricted foreign markets. Other evidence suggests that when you make it harder for people to move to your country, not only do tourism and exports fall, but the diffusion of knowledge slows and the quality of international students drops.
The costs and benefits of tighter travel restrictions
The immediate economic cost from temporarily barring visitors (as opposed to green card holders) from the seven countries on the Executive Order is relatively low since they are not major sources of tourism or trade. In 2016, combined US exports to the countries were just $1.6 billion—out of total US exports of $ 6.4 trillion. Only about 84,000 people from those countries visited the US in 2015 on visas. On average, overseas travelers to the US spend about $4,400 on American goods and services with each trip. That suggests a direct economic cost of $370 million per year were the ban to continue.
Nevertheless, even these numbers suggest that rescinding the ban, or at least targeting more precisely to exempt lower-threat entries—including 80-year-old grandmas, five-year-old children, and people who worked with coalition forces during the Iraq war—would have benefits. As to any potential benefits in terms of reduced security risks, it is worth noting no national from any of the seven banned countries has killed an American on US soil in terrorist attacks at any time between 1975 and 2015.
The costs of a tougher visa policy would increase were the bans made permanent or extended to more countries. Robert Khan, Ted Alden, and Hedi Crebo-Rediker of the Council on Foreign Relations suggest the direct and indirect costs of a full travel ban covering every Muslim-majority country could range from $31 billion to $66 billion, with an associated US job loss of 50,600 to 132,000.
And tighten visa restrictions to all countries, then a considerable part of the $221 billion in US tourism receipts each year could be at risk—alongside global trade, and financial and technological cooperation. Again, there may be security benefits to tougher visa requirements and restrictions. But it is worth noting the chance of being murdered by a tourist on the most common visa (the B visa), is 1 in 3.9 million per year. The chance of being murdered by someone already here is about 152 times higher.
Regardless of their scope and scale, the strongest arguments against greater restrictions on entry into the United States may remain those around national security, morality, and human decency. But if the restrictions are expanded, they will have an ever-greater economic impact as well. Those who want to visit will lose out from a dream holiday, a better education, or a chance to start a trading relationship. But so will the Americans who work in hotels and resorts, schools and universities, factories and farms who would have profited from that visit. For a set of policies where any benefits appear small and uncertain, these costs alone might justify a reassessment.
We’ve spent the past year focusing on beyond aid approaches to promoting gender equality worldwide, through discussions on how to improve outcomes for women and girls in areas ranging from migration to UN peacekeeping forces. Next we’re looking at how trade agreements can help to ensure they benefit women and men equally, whether they participate in the economy as wage workers, farmers, or entrepreneurs. That might take both carrots and sticks—because, at the moment, women are all too likely to lose out.
On the supply side, the direct beneficiaries of trade skew male: women running their own businesses are disproportionately located in the informal sector and in smaller firms, and few such firms participate in trade. And women employed as wage workers are also less likely to be employed within companies that export: in almost half of exporting companies across 20 developing countries, women made up just 20 percent of those employed.
The issues underlying that disparity go far beyond trade policy—but trade policy can still help address them. Our colleague Kim Elliott recently pointed to the fact that the Global South is leading the way by integrating considerations of gender into trade agreements. The trade agreement between Chile and Uruguay, for example, recognizes gender as a factor impacting workers’ ability to benefit (or not) from trade channels and articulates a commitment to address barriers to women in the workforce. But even these agreements are not backed up by legal requirements or enforcement mechanisms. (One potential exception comes from the East African Community partner states, which have taken a first step towards legally mandating the incorporation of gender considerations into trade policy through a bill introduced earlier this month.)
US trade agreements have included non-discrimination in employment and remuneration clauses since 2007, which places them ahead of recent EU agreements. But there is more to be done on both sides of the Atlantic. It is time to transition from aspirational language to solid commitments and enforcement.
We propose three ideas in our new policy note:
1. Use pre-ratification conditions to incentivize the reform of gender-discriminatory laws
In order for trade to benefit men and women equally, discrimination against women seeking to enter and participate in the workforce must be addressed. One place to start is with legal discrimination: 79 countries legally prevent women from holding certain jobs on the grounds of their sex alone.
Prior to ratifying agreements, trade partners could stipulate the need for partner states to repeal discriminatory laws preventing women from equally benefiting from trade. Similar (non-gender) conditions have been imposed in the past: countries including Morocco, Oman, Chile and Guatemala were required to reform their labor laws before signing trade agreements with the United States.
2. Consider imposing sanctions on sectors that continue to discriminate
If discriminatory laws are not repealed, then countries might refuse to import goods coming from sectors that continue to bar women’s participation. These sanctions would need to be compliant with existing trade treaties.
3. Empower local “watch dogs” to monitor compliance and promote accountability.
The legislation accompanying trade agreements should include funding for local human rights and women’s rights groups, as well as labor unions, capable of keeping a pulse on public and private sector compliance with trade agreements’ terms regarding non-discrimination and holding non-compliers to account.
The intersection of gender and trade is one that under-researched, as trade traditionally has been thought of as “gender neutral.” But women face particular constraints as owners and workers due to their gender. Those negotiating trade agreements need to consider and combat gender disparities in order to ensure that women aren’t losing out on the benefits of trade.
The benefits of global trade are numerous and well-documented, but trade channels can still be made more inclusive for women entrepreneurs and wage workers. Incorporating pre-ratification conditions into the trade agreement negotiation process to remove legal barriers against women’s equal participation in the economy (and therefore equal advantages from trade), as well as instituting follow-up enforcement mechanisms, can help to ensure trade benefits women and men more equally going forward.
Kellyanne Conway called him a “man of action” after a whirlwind first week in which President Trump signed 14 Executive Orders and presidential memoranda, covering most of his key campaign issue areas from health to immigration to trade. It should be noted that President Obama signed 13 such orders in his first week, including an order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, which he was unable to achieve in eight years in office.
President Trump’s agenda will undoubtedly face policy hurdles and legal challenges (starting with Saturday’s late night stay of certain measures in his immigration order), but the breakneck pace at which he has wielded the pen signals his intention to carry through his most strident campaign promises.
In a series of blogs, CGD experts have been examining how some of these specific policy intentions could impact development progress. As you would expect from a group of economists, we believe in—and encourage—evidence-based policymaking, and here we look at what the existing evidence and research tell us about how likely these Executive Orders are to achieve the president’s stated goals.
On Friday night, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim nations from entering the United States. Our research shows this ban will result not only in serious harm to the world’s most vulnerable, but will also alienate allies the United States needs to fight violent extremism and protect American interests.
Some months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US government shut down all unofficial, unmanned border crossings with Mexico. In 2013, that crossing was reopened. The re-opening has been a win-win for people on both sides of the border. But with Trump’s executive order calling for construction of the border wall, much remains to be seen in the realm of US-Mexico cooperation.
The New York Timesreported last week that the Trump Administration is considering a new Executive Order that mandates cutting all funding to bodies that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority and fund abortion amongst other categories, but also suggests “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining US funding towards international organizations. The proposed cuts would do almost nothing to reduce the deficit while weakening US national security and international leadership.
On his first day in the office, President Trump signed an executive order reinstating a 30-year-old political hot potato, the “Mexico City Policy." Like many, I will point out that reinstating the global gag rule does not reduce abortion.
By Amanda Glassman, Mayra Buvinic, and Charles Kenny
The scale of the turnout at the Women’s Marches across the world recently, along with President Trump’s early reinstatement of a ban on US funding for organizations that offer family planning services in foreign countries, seem to suggest an administration already at odds with an entire gender. On this podcast, three CGD senior fellows weigh in on the evidence that engaging and empowering women—both at home and overseas—makes good sense, especially in an America-First strategy.
The New York Timesreported yesterday that the Trump Administration is considering a new Executive Order on “Auditing and Reducing US Funding of International Organizations.” It mandates cutting all funding to bodies that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority and fund abortion amongst other categories, but also suggests the to-be-established International Funding Accountability Committee recommend “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining US voluntary funding for international organizations. The draft order creates a committee to look at where these cuts could come from, and suggests a particular focus on peacekeeping operations; the International Criminal Court; development aid to countries that “oppose important United States policies”; and the United Nations Population Fund.
It is unclear if the Executive Order is designed to encompass international financial institutions including the World Bank and IMF (if it did, that would be another big reason for concern). But focusing in on the United Nations and related agencies, the proposed cutswould do almost nothing to reduce the deficit while weakening US national security and international leadership. Cuts to peacekeeping in particular would increase the risk the administration has to put US troops in harm’s way. International peacekeeping operations were singled out as requiring examination by the Committee. However, as some peacekeeping operations are voluntary, and others are assessed, it is unclear whether the Committee would recommend a 40 percent cut in all peacekeeping operations or just those involving voluntary contributions. Of course, the Committee is also required to recommend strategies to transition mandatory assessments to voluntary contributions (though this will almost certainly violate treaty obligations if acted on), so this is perhaps moot.
US funding for the United Nations and its agencies under the State Department International Organizations and Contributions to International Peacekeeping accounts amounts to a little over $4.5 billion a year—equal to a little over 0.1 percent of the total US federal budget, about two B-1 bombers or about one sixth the amount Americans spend each year on pet food. Over half of that sum goes to peacekeeping operations, about $600 million to UN operations and $1.4 billion to international bodies including the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Other US government departments make additional payments to a range of international organizations inside and outside of the UN family—the biggest beneficiaries are the World Food Program and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The total across the US government is $10.8 billion). Most State Department contributions are based on treaty obligations, but the worst punishment the UN could likely mete out if the US refused to pay its assessed share of costs is to deny America a vote in the General Assembly. The real reason to keep up payments is that, for all its failings, the United Nations works.
UN organizations play a considerable role in everything from agreeing statistical measures through peace negotiations (like helping to end the civil war in Guatemala) to ensuring planes don’t crash into each other in international airspace and inspecting nuclear power stations. Again, it is the United Nations—not the US or the European Union—that is leading the response to Syria’s refugee emergency. And the UN also saves lives far away from war zones. The United Nations Children’s Fund currently supplies vaccines reaching more than a third of the world's children. The agency is one factor behind rapidly declining child mortality worldwide: the number of under-five deaths fell from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010.
Regarding the UN activities singled out by the draft Executive Order, the US doesn’t fund (and isn’t a member of) the International Criminal Court, so there are few savings to be had. And it isn’t clear how the US could cut development aid via to UN Agencies in a way that was specific to countries that “oppose US policies” (it might be easier, if morally suspect, with emergency aid, but appropriately the draft excludes that). Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund gets about $57 million of US funding for UN agencies. Clearly there isn’t much to cut here (which isn’t to say it should be cut regardless: access to family planning is a human right and a powerful force for development).
That leaves payments for peacekeeping operations as the most plausible target of significant cuts. But the evidence is particularly strong that peacekeeping works. From Sierra Leone and Liberia to Mozambique, El Salvador, and Cambodia, UN missions have helped end bloody civil wars and return countries to peace. Looking across all cases where blue-helmeted UN troops were deployed after a civil war, Virginia Fortna of Columbia University suggests the record is far from perfect, but peacekeeping usually works. Allowing for other factors such as the duration of the war and the development level of the country involved, she suggests when the international community deploys peacekeepers the risk of civil war reigniting drops by almost 70 percent. Madhav Joshi of the University of Notre Dame finds a similar result and adds evidence that UN missions contribute to durable peace in post–civil war states by promoting democracy. Lisa Hultman and Megan Shannon of Uppsala and the University of Colorado at Boulder also suggest that the presence of peacekeepers dramatically reduces civilian deaths. And lowering conflict worldwide makes America safer—it denies terrorists safe havens, limits refugee flows, and reduces the risk that US forces will need to intervene.
The United Nations is currently involved in 16 different peacekeeping operations from Cyprus through Lebanon to Haiti and along the India-Pakistan border. It does all of this at an annual expenditure to the US equal to about 0.015 percent of the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In part that’s because the US pays $2.1 million a year per American serviceman deployed to war zones compared to $24,500 per deployed UN peacekeeper—about 86 times as much. And the UN operates using just 72 Americans out of a force of 100,376. If you are worried about other countries pulling their weight when it comes to international security, UN Peacekeeping should be your instrument of choice. And if the US doesn't want its troops to be the world's policemen, it needs UN peacekeepers.
Overall, it is hard to argue that US expenditure on UN institutions is anything but a great deal—which isn’t to say there aren’t more or less efficient parts of the organization. A US exercise like the UK’s Multilateral Development Review could help in determining where America is getting the most back from its investment in international organizations. And such an exercise can be used to negotiate reforms—and get more for our money. Again, even effective parts of the organization need reform: peacekeepers have spread cholera in Haiti, and engaged in sexual abuse of children elsewhere. Paralysis in the face of Security Council division has left the organization powerless to bring peace to Syria. The UN’s reputation is not improved by giving the chair of a human rights committee to Saudi Arabia, or making Zimbabwe’s despot Robert Mugabe an international tourism ambassador.
But these problems are reasons for further engagement, not abandonment, including pressure for better oversight and accountability that the US Congress backed last year. And America has considerable influence over the UN family to push needed reforms—not only because it is the largest contributor (as befits its status as the largest economy worldwide in market terms), but also because the US and its closest allies are still hugely over-represented in the UN bureaucracy. Western Europe, North America, and Australia and New Zealand between them held 45 percent of top positions as recently as 2005—that compares to a 13 percent share of global population. Contrast China: despite a 23 percent share of world population, they held about one percent of senior positions. In addition, it is a fantastic deal for the US that the UN sits in New York: For every $1 the US contributes to the UN it receives $1.60 back in contracts for US-based businesses & benefits to the economy.
The United Nations is a flawed organization but it is still effective, comparatively cheap, and an irreplaceable tool of US foreign policy. Cutting funding to some of its most cost-effective elements would be a loss to American leadership, values, and security.
Update 1/30/2017: There are reports the Administration is holding off on issuing this Executive Order and that it is under review by the State Department and other agencies. And one draft of the order currently circulating suggests that the 40 percent cut would only apply to voluntary contributions to UN organizations, not assessed contributions that the US is obliged to pay as part of organization membership. The Order creates an International Funding Accountability Committee that is required to recommend strategies to transition mandatory assessments to voluntary contributions as well as recommend the cuts to voluntary contributions. US contributions to Peacekeeping involve both assessed and voluntary contributions. Assessed contributions are made to the UN peacekeeping missions on the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel, in Southern Lebanon, Kosovo, Liberia and elsewhere. Other peacekeeping contributions include to the Multinational Force and Observers operating on the Egypt-Israel border in Sinai (although this is mandated by the Egypt-Israel Treaty of Peace).
Note: This post was updated on Jan 30 at 12:05pm to reflect new information as described above, and on Jan 27 at 9:37am to correct errors. It originally excluded contributions to International Organizations from outside the State Department's core international organization accounts. These have now been added in. And the amount received by the UN Population was amended to $57 million, not $33 million as originally stated. Thanks to Sheba Crocker for alerting us.
The scale of the turnout at the Women’s Marches across the world recently, along with President Trump’s early reinstatement of a ban on US funding for organizations that offer family planning services in foreign countries, seem to suggest an administration already at odds with an entire gender. On this week’s podcast, three CGD senior fellows weigh in on the evidence that engaging and empowering women—both at home and overseas—makes good sense, especially in an America-First strategy.
Amanda Glassman, CGD’s COO and former director of global health policy, has written previously about how the “Mexico City Policy" could actually lead to more abortion and more lives lost. “This kind of policy just doesn’t take us anywhere,” she tells me in the podcast. “It limits funding for both international and developing-country non-governmental organizations that provide these services, and we already know it doesn’t work.”
Mayra Buvinic and Charles Kenny, co-directors of CGD’s gender program, point out that providing access to family planning for women in developing countries helps to empower women and strengthen those countries’ economies—and that’s good for America’s economy.
“If developing countries grow, they buy more stuff,” Kenny says. “They invest more in creating new technologies and new innovations, which we use.”
Earlier this month, evidence emerged that a Nevada woman who died last September had contracted a superbug resistant to all 26 available antibiotics, including colistin, the drug of last resort. If left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 with a cumulative loss of $100 trillion to the global economy. The misuse of antibiotics in human medicine allows bacteria to evolve resistance to many life-saving drugs. But their excessive and inappropriate use in farm animals—which consume 70-80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States—is another key factor accelerating drug resistance globally.
In a new CGD policy paper, we argue that a global treaty to reduce antibiotic use in animals could help make inroads into that problem. Such a treaty could be modeled on lessons learned from the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer—a milestone in international cooperation often considered one of the most successful global treaties of all time. Researchers project the protocol will prevent over six million deaths from skin cancer in the US alone between 1990 and 2165. We have previously discussed similarities between the AMR threat and the challenge posed by ozone-depleting substances. Here, we outline three core components of a global treaty to curb antimicrobial use in animals:
1. Flexible provisions to reduce use
Governments often use taxes to discourage consumption of ‘global public bads.’ But setting a global tax rate for antimicrobials would be a complex undertaking, and enforcing it in practice would be even more challenging. Instead, we propose setting country-level targets for use, giving countries flexibility about how to meet those targets. As part of national strategies to meet the targets, governments might well decide to tax antibiotic use in animals.
We suggest three complementary approaches for setting targets: banning the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion in livestock; banning or restricting the use of specific drugs that are critically important for human use; and sharply reducing overall use.
The most important consideration in setting targets will be to incorporate flexibility in the treaty structure so they can be revised as more evidence and additional alternatives become available—a key feature in the Montreal Protocol’s success. Flexibility is important given the extent of the knowledge gaps in how, where, and why farmers around the world give antibiotics to their animals, uncertainty around the extent of livestock’s contribution to the overall AMR threat, and specifically how often resistant bacteria from farm animals cause infections in humans.
2. Incentives for countries to participate
Modeled on the Montreal Protocol example, we recommend three ways to incentivize countries, especially low- and middle-income countries, to participate in a global treaty:
Restrictions on meat imports from countries that refuse to join the treaty will encourage universal adoption and help prevent nonparticipants from offsetting progress made elsewhere.
Granting low- and middle-income countries a grace period before they are required to reduce or phase out antibiotics on their farms should lower the costs of implementation.
A fund providing financial and technical support, like the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, would help developing countries implement treaty commitments. Support might include advanced market commitments and/or subsidies for vaccines for livestock or agricultural extension programs to help farmers transition to alternatives and improve livestock management practices.
3.Requirements around reporting, monitoring, and enforcement
Directly measuring and monitoring the use of antimicrobials on millions of farms worldwide would be challenging. We propose following the Montreal Protocol model once again and monitoring “apparent consumption”: production plus imports minus exports of antimicrobials for use in agriculture, disaggregated by drug class. To facilitate the ultimate goal of improving data on antimicrobial use on farms worldwide, technical and financial support for developing countries, discussed above, should be used to bolster data collection and surveillance systems. And after initial rounds of support, future assistance could be made conditional on fulfilling basic reporting requirements.
To get the ball rolling, treaty negotiations could begin with the 20 countries that account for 75 percent of global antimicrobial use in animals. Given the urgency of the AMR threat, initial steps toward treaty-making should begin as early as possible.
It is true that the uncertain political climate in the United States (and across much of Europe) could make this a challenging time for international treaty-making. But going back to the Montreal Protocol example, Ronald Reagan signed on to the treaty in 1988 with unanimous Senate approval, marking what he himself described as “a monumental achievement.” As much as protecting the ozone layer prevents millions of US cancer deaths, negotiating a global treaty to help avoid millions of US deaths from drug-resistant microbes is in the clear self-interest of the United States. It would be a proud legacy for any president.
“We would like to reiterate the importance of enumerating sustainable development goals in accordance with para 247 of the Rio+20 outcome document which, inter alia, states that the SDGs should be action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries...”
The chairs are right: the MDGs were about poetry – a broad vision, elegantly laid out in a few choice words (for a UN document, at least). Concise and easy to communicate. Simple, numerical, time bound. That’s what gave a bunch of non-binding targets their power.
So, how does the zero draft do on these measures? It is certainly not short on aspiration. According to the list, in just sixteen years’ time we can have: ended poverty in all its forms everywhere; achieved full and productive employment and decent work for all; ended hunger and malnutrition alongside the problems of obesity and overweight; attained universal health care and a healthy life for all at all ages; wiped out HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases; provided universal secondary education and universal access to tertiary education; achieved gender equality everywhere and eliminated all forms of violence against all women and girls; ensured adequate and affordable housing, water, sanitation, reliable energy, and ICT access for all; addressed climate change and attained sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas and; halted all biodiversity loss. If that’s not enough, we will have also eliminated all discriminatory laws, policies and practices.
What about concise and limited in number? There are 17 goals and 212 targets spread over about 18 pages. In fairness, some of the targets appear more than once, and there’s a line space between each target. Add in the impact of a smaller font, and you could probably get a concise version down to ten pages. Compare it to the Rio + 20 declaration of 2012 --49 single-spaced pages on The Future We Want—and this zero-draft is the epitome of distillation.
And it covers a lot of different topics in those 18 pages. It wouldn’t be right to describe this as a Christmas tree. It is perhaps closer to a plantation of Christmas trees. Some might unfairly argue there’s enough tannenbaum there to meet the forestry target all by itself. But powering all the tree lights would probably doom the sustainable energy goal.
Looking at individual targets suggested, we’d argue the considerable majority fall into at least one category of awful: unattainable (confusing important ultimate goals with time-bound targets for progress), immeasurable (at least by the UN), redundant, or confusing means with ends. The below lists are illustrative and in no way meant to be exhaustive. Hopefully we’re wrong about some of classifications, but they suggest the extent of the problem:
How are we going to do this?
2.2 end malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity and overweight, with special attention to reducing stunting by 40% and wasting to less than 5% in children less than 5 years of age by 2025, and address the nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women
3.3 by 2030 end HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases
4.1 by 2030 ensure all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
4.2 by 2030 ensure equal access for all to affordable quality tertiary education and life-long learning
5.2 eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spaces
8.1 sustain per capita economic growth of at least x% per annum (with x being set at a level appropriate to national circumstances)
8.3 by 2030 achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities
11.1 by 2030, ensure universal access to adequate and affordable housing and basic services for all, and eliminate slum-like conditions everywhere
12.2 by 2030 achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources to enhance human welfare within the carrying capacity of ecosystems
15.1 by 2020 halt the loss of all biodiversity, and protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
16.2 by 2030 end abuse, exploitation and violence against children
16.12 by 2030 provide equal access for all to independent, effective, and responsive justice systems that respect due-process rights, and equal access to legal aid
How (does the UN agree) to measure progress?
2.4 by 2030 achieve access to adequate inputs, knowledge and productive resources, financial services and markets, especially for small and family farmers, pastoralists, and fishers, with a particular focus on women
2.5 by 2030, develop food systems that are more productive, sustainable, resilient and efficient, and minimize adverse human and environmental impacts without compromising food and nutrition security
2.11 by 2030 fully implement measures that curb excessive food price volatility and ensure proper functioning of markets.
4.5 by 2030 increase by x% the number of young and adult women and men with the skills needed for employment, including vocational training, ICT, technical, engineering and scientific skills
8.5 create a sound macroeconomic environment with strong fiscal and monetary policies
10.1 by 2030 eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices
10.6 promote and respect cultural diversity
12.7 by 2030 redouble efforts to create a culture of sustainable lifestyles, including through education, awareness raising, sustainability information on products and services, policies and incentives
12.8 by 2020 create economic incentives and scientific and technological capacities that enable and promote sustainable consumption and a circular economy
16.4 by 2030 increase inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels, taking into consideration the interests of present and future generations
16.6 forge unity in diversity through democratic practices and mechanisms at the local, national and international levels
16.11 develop effective, accountable and transparent public institutions at all levels
16.17 promote freedom of media, association and speech
Isn’t this redundant?
1.7 pursue sustained and inclusive economic growth as a key enabler for achieving poverty eradication [there’s a whole sustainable growth goal with 16 targets]
3.8 ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health for all [see 5.9 ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD]
6.2 by 2030 provide universal access to safe and affordable sanitation and hygiene including at home, schools, health centers and refugee camps, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls [see 6.1 by 2030, provide universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene for all]
12.6 by 2030 at least halve per capita food waste at retail and consumer level, particularly in developed countries and countries with high per capita food waste [see 2.6 by 2030 reduce by 50% global food waste at retail and consumer level]
How is this a target rather than an input?
1.8 integrate biodiversity conservation measures into national and local development strategies, planning processes and poverty reduction strategies
2.6 by 2030 reduce by 50% global food waste at retail and consumer level
6.8 provide adequate facilities and infrastructure, both built and natural, for safe drinking water and sanitation systems, for productive uses of water resources and for mitigating the impacts of water-related disasters
8.8 create enabling conditions for increased growth and productivity of micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), including through policies that promote entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and through improved access to markets and financial services
8.9 increase the share of high productivity sectors and activities in the economy, and strengthen productive capacities through technological upgrading, greater value addition and product diversification, with a particular focus on LDCs
8.16 explore the possibility of a broader system of capital accounting looking beyond GDP and incorporating social, human and environmental capital
9.2 respect national policy space and national circumstances for industrial development, particularly in developing countries
9.4 significantly raise industry’s share of employment and GDP in line with national strategies, including doubling manufacturing’s share in LDCs by 2030
9.5 increase industrial diversification in developing countries, including through enhanced domestic processing of raw materials and commodities and through new product development
This is a zero draft for negotiation. You’d expect some overlap and redundancy. But going forward, there is a lot of axe-work to be done by the Open Working Group and with only one official meeting remaining, the chances of serious cutbacks seem grim. The only hope is for the Secretary General to take a strong stand: if we’re going to get to a powerful set of goals for 2015, restraint must be the order of the day. The lesson of the OWG process, if we needed reminding: never ask a committee to write poetry.
This is the first in a series of CGD blogs suggesting potential improvements to the SDG targets.
Could some of the Sustainable Development Goal targets be more ambitious and still actionable? We believe so. Even though the window for negotiating changes to the 17 goals and the 169 targets may be getting smaller, CGD experts have their own analysis of and suggestions for the text of some targets, including specific revisions and additions that we think will strengthen them. This blog post summarizes our proposed changes to the language of the SDG targets. In the coming days we will post more blogs from my colleagues that scrutinize individual goals more closely.
We’ve already stuck a toe in the water with Anna Diofasi and Nancy Birdsall’s earlier blog on adding a median-income target and Michael Clemens’ suggestion for tightening language around migration. Over the next few days CGD staff will discuss targets from income poverty through energy, climate, and governance.
The series is in no way meant to be exhaustive—it reflects the expertise and the interests of the contributors. And it should not be taken as an implicit endorsement of the targets or goals that go discussed or undiscussed, or the SDG process as a whole, by any of the authors. It certainly doesn’t reflect any kind of consensus or institutional position!
Please check back in the coming days as we present more forensic analysis on some of the Sustainable Development Goals in the hope that policymakers will see how they can add further ambition and precision. We propose small tweaks with big impact!
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Target 1: By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.2575 a day in 2011 International Dollars.
Target 2: By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in povertyin all its dimensions according to current (2015) national definitions.
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Target 2: By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, reducing child deaths to below 30 per thousand in every country.
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Target 3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation . By 2030, reduce the global proportion of women aged 20 to 24 who were married before 18 to [below one in six] and global prevalence of female genital mutilation by [one half].
Target 4: Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate. Revise systems of national accounts to incorporate measures of unpaid care and domestic work by .
Target 5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life . Further reduce the global gap between male and female labor participation rates, male and female parliamentary representation and gender gaps in voting.
Target 6: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences . Reduce the global percentage of fertile, married women of reproductive age who do not want to become pregnant and are not using contraception by [one third] by 2030.
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all
Target 1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services basic energy, including affordable and reliable task lighting and power for a small appliance, as defined by average annual per capita energy consumption of at least 100 kWh. In addition, by 2030, make substantial progress toward universal access to modern energy, including affordable and reliable energy for lighting, communications, and powered-appliances, as defined by average annual per capita energy consumption of at least 1,500 kWh.
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Target 1: Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 74.5% percent gross domestic product per capita growth per annum in the least developed countries.
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Target 1: Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all , including significant progress in reducing the number of the world’s people who live more than two kilometers from an all-weather road.
Target 5: Enhance scientific research, upgrade technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people by [ x20] per cent and public and private nondefense research and development spending as a percentage of global GDP by one fifth.
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Target 6: Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle , and to implement existing commitments to remove deforestation from commodity supply chains by 2020.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Target 4 [Not a current target] Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Target 1: Significantly By 2030, reduce all forms of violence andreduce the number of homicide and conflict-relateddeath rates deaths by [30%] everywhere.
Target 4: By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, and strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.
Target 5: Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms the proportion of citizens who report paying bribes to government officials.
Target 8: Broaden and strengthenthe participation of developing countries in the institutions of global global institutional governance systems to better reflect shares of global GDP and population.
Target 9: By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including through birth registration.
Target 10: Ensure public access to information , including publication of full-text government contracts, and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
Andy Sumner and I recently wrote about the fact that the number of low income countries in the world is rapidly shrinking –which is great news because it suggests poor countries are getting richer. But how much does graduating to ‘middle income’ mean? Here’s how the original income classification came about, according to the World Bank’s website:
The process of setting per capita income thresholds started with finding a stable relationship between a summary measure of well-being such as poverty incidence and infant mortality on the one hand and economic variables including per capita GNI estimated based on the Bank's Atlas method on the other. Based on such a relationship and the annual availability of Bank's resources, the original per capita income thresholds were established. Thereafter, the original thresholds have been updated every year to incorporate the effect of international inflation....
The economies whose per capita GNI falls below the Bank's operational cutoff for "Civil Works Preference" are classified as low-income economies; economies whose per capita GNI is higher than the Bank's operational threshold for "Civil Works Preference" and lower than the threshold for 17-year IBRD loans are classified as lower-middle income economies; and those economies whose per capita GNI is higher than the Bank's operational threshold for 17-year IBRD loans and lower than the threshold for high-income economies are classified as upper-middle income economies.
Got that? In short: the World Bank found that there’s a close link between GNI per capita and broad-based development (hem, hem), the institution needed a system to help apportion limited funding and set borrowing rules, and so it chose income thresholds to meet that need. The current income thresholds have nothing whatsoever to do with a particular status of countries themselves –something that a country just over the $1,000 middle-income threshold has that a country just under that threshold doesn’t have. Fair enough –but the way the classification was created suggests that the World Bank would be completely consistent in setting new income thresholds because of the changing availability of Bank resources or new views about which countries need civil works preference in procurement.
Meanwhile, my colleagues Ben Leo and Todd moss have looked forward and forecast what the increasing wealth of formerly poor countries means for the International Development Agency –the soft loan arm of the World Bank which lends to countries classified as low income and a little bit richer. They predict that there will only be a billion people left in IDA-eligible countries in a few years’ time. “This drastically altered client base will have significant implications for IDA's operational and financial models,” Todd and Ben conclude. But, once again, a simpler course would just be to reset similarly arbitrary IDA thresholds. Here is how IDA goes about deciding who gets soft loans, from a 2001 paper:
The ceiling for IDA eligibility (currently called the historical cutoff), initially set at $250 per capita in 1964, has been revised to account for inflation, reaching $1,445 in 2000. In the early eighties, the availability of IDA resources was not adequate to fund programs for all countries below this eligibility ceiling. As a result, IDA ceased to lend to countries at the upper end of the notionally eligible per capita income scale. This created a second and lower “operational cutoff” which was formally recognized by IDA donors in IDA8. The operational per capita income cutoff has been reaffirmed by the donors in each subsequent replenishment, and now stands at $885 [in 1999 US$]. The historical cutoff is used only for determining preference in civil works procurement.
The current operational cutoff for IDA eligibility for FY11 is $1,165 (2009 GNI per capita), while the historical ceiling is $1,905 (2009 GNI per capita). Once again, eligibility was determined by how much money there was to go around rather than any particular feature of countries poorer than $250 per capita in 1964. And then eligibility was re-determined based on the availability of IDA resources to about half that amount adjusted for inflation in the 1980s. So why not just return to the historical cutoff? Or double it, if there’s enough money in IDA?
A different approach would be to attempt to make the income and IDA thresholds actually reflect something about the nature of countries independent of their relationship to the World Bank and its arcane concerns with civil works preference. Here’s one idea: countries that can’t wipe out absolute poverty (people living on less than $1.25 a day) relying on their own resources alone are considered low income and IDA eligible. Martin Ravallion of the World Bank suggests that most countries with an income over $4,000 (PPP) could plausibly end absolute poverty without outside assistance using a tax on rich people within the country –so there is the new cut-off. Countries with incomes around $4,000 PPP have average Atlas GNI’s per capita of close to $2,300. Give or take, then, that doubles the current income threshold. As it happens, it is also pretty close to the ‘historical ceiling’ for IDA.
As to high income, Lant Pritchett suggests that a plausible upper bound poverty rate is $10 a day. Let’s say any country where average incomes are five times that counts as rich –that comes out to around $18,250 (PPP) –countries near that level have an average Atlas GNI per capita of about $11,800 –pretty close to the current high-income cutoff of $12,276. Why five times a $10/day level? To be honest, just because it comes out close to the current cutoff. So I’m open to better ideas!
Over 1 billion women lack access to financial services due to economic and social barriers, time and mobility constraints, and discrimination in service provision. Financial services delivered digitally can address these barriers by providing women with safe and accessible channels. This event will look at the recent evidence and emerging technologies that work to empower women economically.
There are 20 pages covering the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. And while they are inevitably bubble-wrapped in diplo-speak and hat-tipping, there is a solid package of proposals nestled within. They cover domestic public finance, private finance, international public finance, trade, debt, technology, data and systemic issues. Amongst many other things, the Agenda calls for more tax and better tax (less regressive, more focused on pollution and tobacco). And it is long and specific on base erosion, tax evasion and competition and tax cooperation. It calls for financial inclusion and cheaper remittances. The draft discusses blended finance and a larger role for market-based instruments to support infrastructure rollout, as well as a new measure of “Total Official Support for Sustainable Development.” It calls for Multilateral Development Bank reform including new graduation criteria and scaling up. And it suggests a global compact to guarantee a universal package of basic social services and a second compact covering infrastructure. Finally, the draft has a good section on technology including the need for public finance and flexibility on intellectual property rights.
What impact does corruption have on development, and what’s the best way to stamp it out? In a new book called Results, Not Receipts, CGD senior fellow Charles Kenny offers a way to strengthen the case for aid and reduce corruption at the same time: focus on outcomes, rather than inputs.
Domestic violence — overwhelmingly against women — is by far the most common form of violence in the world. About 350 million women across the planet have suffered severe physical violence from their intimate partner according to the World Bank (PDF). In developing countries, more than one in three girls will be married before the age of 18, placing them at increased risk of abuse. Worldwide, 125 million women have been subject to genital mutilation. And sex-selective abortion is replacing neglect as the tool of choice among families across the globe who want boys not girls, with somewhere between 4 and 12 million sex-selective abortions performed in India alone over the past three decades.
These practices are so common because in all too many places they are considered normal and acceptable. Around one-quarter of women worldwide suggest that wife beating can be justified if she does something like arguing with her husband or burning dinner according to the World Bank report. Women who agree with any justification for wife beating are at a considerably higher risk of violence than those who do not. And in many countries, the police are loath to intervene in domestic violence cases. In India, 94 percent of police agree that a husband may rape his wife.
The good news is that the percentage of women who believe that wife beating is acceptable has been falling. In Burkina Faso, the proportion who felt husbands could beat wives for arguing with them fell from around one-half to less than one-third between 2003 and 2010. And laws are increasingly reflecting the new norm of unacceptability. Three countries worldwide had legislation against domestic violence in 1989, today the number is 76. Each additional year that a country has domestic violence legislation in place is associated with a reduced prevalence of about 2 percent, according to the World Bank.
Figure: Percent of women who consider a husband justified in hitting his wife
What More Can Developed Countries Do to Help Reduce the Global Toll of Violence against Women?
The most important thing that rich countries can do is tackle the considerable domestic violence that still infests them at home. In a month when a Baltimore Ravens football player was (finally) dropped from the team for knocking out his fiancée and Wesleyan College banned students from the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity that had become known as a “rape factory” on campus, it is clear the United States cannot pretend to stand above the fray. It should join the global struggle against gender violence in a spirit of partnership rather than leadership.
Nonetheless, there is a large role for aid and migration tools to play in highlighting the issue and reducing the level of violence — in the United States and other wealthy countries alike.
Support nudges at the local level:
Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs have gained attention in recent years as a way to address poverty and encourage certain behaviors. In these programs, governments and donor agencies provide individuals or families with cash in return for fulfilling certain conditions, such as enrollment, health facility visits, or vaccination. New research shows that these incentives can be directed toward women and girls to help them overcome barriers by creating space to make better choices for their health and well-being.
In India, child marriage is illegal but the practice remains stubbornly common, with just under half of all girls married before their 18th birthday. The Indian state of Haryana introduced a CCT program in 1994 to delay girls’ marriage and change how families view their daughters. The government provided a savings bond to infant girls that would be redeemable for 25,000 rupees (about $550) when each girl turned 18, on the condition that she was still unmarried. The International Center for Research on Women evaluated the program in 2012 just before the first cohort of participants turned 18 and found that girls who participated in the scheme were significantly more likely to still be in school at the time of evaluation than girls who had not participated (76 percent versus 64 percent). Even though the girls had not received the cash benefit at this point, the program had influenced families’ investment in their daughters’ education. While we won’t know whether the cash transfer has affected early marriage rates until the next survey round is completed later this year, research has shown that the longer a girl stays in school, the more likely she is to delay marriage and pregnancy.
The Haryana CCT program targeted delayed marriage as an outcome, but cash transfers can also be used remove economic barriers which prevent girls from accessing education in the first place. Completing secondary education is correlated with a one-third reduction in risk of domestic violence, not least because it delays marriage. Modest, monthly transfers to families conditioned on girls’ enrollment in school in Bangladesh extended years of enrollment by approximately two years and led to an increase in age of marriage by about the same amount. Another program in Malawi targeting girls’ education and HIV status had an average annual disbursement of $100 per family during the school year, with $30 going directly to the girls themselves. Program participants were three to four times more likely to be in school at the end of the year than non-participants and had an HIV prevalence that was 60 percent lower than the control group.
Many CCT programs targeting education or health outcomes have been conducted nationwide, such as Bolsa Família in Brazil. Such programs could be designed with an added focus on adolescent girls. For example, a similar program targeting girls’ education could be scaled up to cover the population of girls aged 15 to 19 in a country like Rwanda, approximately 600,000 girls, at the disbursement cost of $60 million. Donors could support such programs.
Support community interventions:
Gender inequality is closely linked to domestic violence and serves to both reveal and reinforce the norms that support violence against women. The CCT programs mentioned target domestic violence on the individual level through intermediate outcomes, but interventions which challenge norms supporting violence have also been widely used at the community level. The SASA! study in Uganda is one of the first evaluations of community interventions addressing intimate partner violence. SASA! mobilized activists to analyze power dynamics at the root of domestic violence within their communities and to motivate people within their social network to address power inequalities through media outreach, informal activities and local activism. The results are very encouraging: women in treatment communities were 52 percent less likely to experience physical intimate partner violence in the past year compared with those in the control communities, and both men and women in communities receiving the intervention reported lower social acceptance of domestic violence than their counterparts in the control group.
It’s About More Than Aid
Aid has an important role to play, but the United State should bolster its use of other tools. Alongside highlighting the issue of violence through diplomacy, the United States could do more by using refugee status as a signal of concern over the status of violence, as an official response in countries, and as a tool to reduce suffering. In a landmark ruling in August 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals, an agency of the Department of Justice, concluded that married women in Guatemala who cannot escape their spouses were part of a social group potentially deserving of refugee status because of the risk of violence they face and the limited likelihood of government protection. We hope that ruling will open the door to more victims of violence who have been ignored or further abused by legal systems in their home countries.
Over the next two years, we will flesh out the role that conditional cash transfers and other “nudges” can play in reducing gender violence and in achieving other goals of women’s empowerment. We will also look at the role that “naming and shaming” approaches can play, including granting refugee status to victims from countries where serious domestic violence is systematically and institutionally ignored by law enforcement. We welcome your thoughts and reactions to those ideas.